Whether we’re talking about a church, Bible-study group, work environment, or school setting, nearly every crowd has at least one E.G.R. (Extra Grace Required). You know the one: dominates the conversation, always has the right answer, never lets others talk, or feels the need to ramble on and on about their personal problems. In other words, no filter and little social awareness. These EGR types wear us down and scare us off, but we can’t avoid them altogether. Jesus certainly didn’t, and neither should we (despite how my practical introverted self wants to). Now, I’m not saying “become besties with a co-dependent person or negative gossip.” Even so, we need to know how to love these people well…remembering that at one point in time to one person or another, we too have been EGR’s.
- Remember that in God’s eyes we are all in need of grace. We haven’t earned His attention by our own merit, but remain blemished and desperately needy. Only by the redemptive work of Jesus Christ can we even approach our Creator at all. So, the next time you feel tempted to roll your eyes, pull away and judge, consider all the times God has forgiven, shown mercy and extended life to you. Despite all the ways we fail, He still wants relationship with us–incredible!
- Get to know their story. Perhaps you already do know the. whole. story. over. and over. again. And that’s the problem. You’re exhausted by their whining and extensive sharing. Try to empathize and understand. Put yourself in their situation and ask yourself, “How would I handle this? How would I want to be encouraged right now?” I know–believe me, I do–how fatiguing it can be to hear people dump (few want to be a counselor instead of a friend), but maybe you are the only one listening to them. How can your respond in a way that no one else will? What loving truths can you exhort them with?
- Challenge them to go to the Lord and listen to His Words back. Are they oversharing or clingy because they feel alone? Do they have a relationship with the One who understands and sympathizes with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15)? Do they grasp the fundamental truths of our purpose and design? Encourage them to read through the New Testament; Psalms and Isaiah are also helpful when struggling through tough times–we see that we aren’t alone and that God has given us answers to cling to.
- Respond to negativity with truth and hope. Misery loves company; the opposite also seems to be true. If you respond with gossip/slander by saying something positive about the person being bashed, the slanderer will often hush-up. If you find yourself surrounded by complaining whiners, speak a word of gratitude. Yes, you may be labeled “weird”, but I guarantee your position will alter the negative chatter.
- Help them by offering real and practical solutions. When you move into problem-solving mode, you’ll quickly determine whether the person is receptive to changing their situation/attitude, or if they have identified with their issues and don’t really want anything to change. Some people want to play victim and don’t truly desire to overcome their obstacles. Be wise enough to know the difference.
- Love and let go. Scripture prompts us to “carry each other’s burdens” but a few verses later, we’re also told that “each will have to bear his own load” (Gal. 6:2, 5). So while we help carry what the weak cannot, we also aren’t helping those by doing what they are capable of doing for themselves.
In God’s steadfast love, He continues to patiently teach and discipline us, His wayward children. Remember that truth the next time you are tempted to write off a fellow sojourner.